Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Chemo #3: Halfway There

Just a quick update, I had my third chemotherapy treatment today and everything went well! I'm halfway through!!! My blood work looked good, which is always great news. The only issue was that the pump that administers my chemotherapy medicine stopped working, so I was not getting chemo and had no idea. Needless to say, my treatment was delayed by 30 minutes. Other than that, physically I feel fine so far.

Over the past few weeks, I have had no complaints. There were slight issues which I felt dumb even asking about, but per Dr. Heyer's instructions, he insists on knowing everything that happens and changes with my body.

  1. My allergies had been bothering me which is normal during this time of the year. My ears had gotten very clogged and I felt like I was talking in my head. Similar to how your ears feel when you are flying in a plane. It turns out that chemotherapy can affect the ears, since you lose the hair in your nose and ears. Drainage can just lay there in the ear canal causing clogged ears, just like a clogged drain in your bathroom sink. Interesting, huh? I was instructed by the PA to take Sudafed, but the following day I felt 95% better, so I didn't take anything. The PA was not in the office today, so she wasn't able to check my ears to be sure they weren't infected. My WBC didn't indicate any further infections, so I don't think there is any cause for alarm.
  2. I have this little spot on my face next to my left eye. It is the same spot I got when I was eight months pregnant. The nurse said this is normal as chemo has a habit of turning up past health issues or ailments. She told me this is hormone-related and will go away after chemo. 
  3. My sternum was a little achy the past few days. It hasn't been that bad today. I've been told in the past this could be caused by my Neulasta shot, but it's been almost three weeks after my last shot, so this cannot be the cause. After my first treatment, I had the same discomfort and was told if the tumor is being affected it can cause discomfort in that area due to the tumor location. I pray this is the case because that means the tumor is continuing to shrink.

These side effects are so minimal that I don't dare complain. I am thankful my body is fairing well with this treatment and pray it continues.

Thank you, everyone, for your continued prayers and support!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

How YOU Can Help

(written by Chrystal Tan)

Many of you have asked how you can help Jennifer and her family through her journey and many of you have already stepped up and helped her in so many ways.

She has enjoyed fabulous meals, loving chemo care packages, books, magazines, and so many thoughtful cards and gifts. Amidst all of the awful things Jennifer has encountered through her journey she has also seen countless displays of friendship, love and generosity from those that surround her. These are the small things that have helped make this fight more bearable. So thank you to each and every one of you for your thoughtfulness and generosity.

Jennifer has seen great success so far in her treatment, but unfortunately this all comes at a cost. Even with insurance, Jennifer has begun to amass a mound of medical bills. Co-payments and items not covered or only partially covered by insurance (such as wigs, acupuncture, certain medications) have started to add up. It is estimated that her portion of medical costs from this Journey will be in the range of $10,000.

We invite you to help Jennifer fund some of these costs by donating to her medical expense fundraiser. Please consider making a donation – no matter how big or how small. Every penny counts and Jennifer is grateful for your kindness and generosity.

Donating is easy – Click on the “Donate” button below and make a donation to Jennifer’s cause. Funds raised will be used to help cover Jennifer’s out of pocket medical expenses.

In addition, Jennifer’s Lotsa Helping Hands website remains open and active! Please continue to sign up to provide dinners to the family if you are willing and able.

New members can sign up to help Jennifer at the following website:

Fill in the right side of the form which is a Request to Join the Community. Once I have approved your registration you will be automatically added to the community and sent instructions for setting a password and signing in to help.

Lastly, Jennifer asks for your continued prayers as she continues her courageous journey.

Please feel free to pass this message on to others who may wish to help Jennifer and her family on their journey and thank you for all you have done for Jennifer, Christian, and Camilla.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

ThirtyOne Fundraiser

(written by Dawn Markley)

Friends, please support "Not Jenn's Cup of Tea" Fundraiser in her fight against breast cancer. Buy a URU 31 thermal tote and 25% of the proceeds will go to Jenn and $1.00 will go to foundations to support empowerment of women and girls. The thermal tote is $16 and can be monogrammed for an additional $7. Order through April 20 (Camilla's birthday)!! Ships direct and makes a great gift!

For more information visit:

If you have any questions, please contact Dawn Markley at

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Three Thumbs Up

Emu Tree
Today, I had my first follow-up appointment with my oncologist, Dr. David Heyer, so he could check the progress of the tumor.

Before examining me, he asked if I thought there was any progress in the tumor shrinkage and I replied "Yes, I am pretty sure there is a big difference." I hopped on the table and he began feeling the left breast.

Dr Heyer: "Hmm... wow... OMG... big difference... wow..."
Jennifer: "There is a difference, right?"
Dr Heyer: "Yes, significant difference, Jennifer"
He continued feeling all around, at all angles, and shaking his head in disbelief.
Jennifer: "Can you show me where the actual location of the tumor is because I'm not so sure."

He placed his hand on my hand and pressed deeply on the far right side of my left breast directly against the sternum.

Jennifer: "You know, I will be honest, I don't know if I would have ever felt this lump during my monthly exam."
Dr Heyer: "You wouldn't have."

I contemplated this for a few seconds and took a deep breath. This could have been so much worse if I did not give birth to Camilla, if I didn't breast feed... my baby truly saved my life in more ways than one.

One of my best friends, Amy, went to the appointment with me. She is in the medical field and started to ask specific questions.

Amy: "Do you expect this type of progress based on a second treatment?"
Dr Heyer: "Absolutely not. This much progress is remarkable."

I also had several questions to ask:
  1. What if the lung nodules continue to grow during chemo and we aren't aware they are growing? Dr. Heyer said there is a 0% chance this would happen, even though he said he should never say 0%. His hopes are that the nodules are killed off by chemo due to their small size. If for some reason the nodules were resistant (which is slim) they would remain the same and not grow.  
  2. How do you think the cancer reached the lung nodules? I had my own opinions after looking over my medical records. My radiologist, pathologist and breast surgeon confirmed my lymph nodes appeared to be contained. My idea was that the lymph nodes appeared due to local metastasis, which is when a tumor was aggressive enough to force through cell walls. Dr. Heyer said he thinks the tumor literally sidetracked and got into the lung lymph node, which created the nodules. He doesn't believe it spread via the systemic lymph nodes (it's the highway of the body which is a very good thing). However, there are lymph nodes that go directly to an organ and the tumor penetrated the lung lymph node.
  3. Chemo - He considered minimizing the number of chemo treatments left and schedule surgery sooner; however, after a couple minutes of deliberation he decided we will stick to our original plan. He wants to see me again after two more sessions and will only do a PETscan after my last treatment to "restage" me. We will then discuss surgery and radiation.
  4. AC vs. Taxotere/Carboplatin - I asked why he ultimately switch from AC to the current chemo plan. He explained he does not like to give the drug Adriamycin to young women due to the risk of heart issues post treatment. He said, "I compared you to a 68-year-old woman with cancer. Why would I want to give a 35-year-old woman a treatment risking heart problems for the rest of her life?" Point taken.
  5. Turkey Tail Mushrooms - OK. I am obsessed with this new study about the benefit of turkey tail mushrooms. I initially asked him, "So, what are your thoughts on turkey tail... and he looked bewildered. Amy then interjected, "It's a mushroom." He said, he is not opposed to things like this if I want to try them, but that I am not to try them during chemo because it could be toxic when mixed together. He explained all chemo drugs are a derivative of a plant or tree and the specific chemo I am on comes from the bark of an emu tree, so if I want to go eat some bark ... (what a funny guy, he is). I asked where I could get an emu tree because I WILL eat bark, if necessary ;) I really don't think this surprised him one bit. Anyhow, he said that I can take the turkey tail mushroom supplement if I choose, but after chemo. I promised.
  6. Side Effects - I have yet to have any significant side effects from chemo. He was quite happy to hear this and joked he made the girls out front (his nursing staff) promise not to make me sick or they would need to answer to him (again, he is such a funny man).
  7. Tumor Marking - Tumor marking is done by blood work and used to manage cancer patients. I asked his thoughts on tumor marking. He said he doesn't prefer tumor marking because it is not completely accurate and causes a lot of unnecessary anxiety. He prefers to scan which I will have done every three months.
Overall, Dr Heyer said if he had three thumbs he would give me three thumbs up! The news he gave me today was better than he would have ever dreamed of giving. Before he left, I asked if I could give him a big hug and he said of course - he left grinning ear-to-ear and finally said the words I needed to hear, "I think everything is going to be OK."